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A time to talk: Five questions to be asked at 2022 BYU football media day

By Jared Lloyd - | Jun 21, 2022

Courtesy BYU Photo

Head football coach Kalani Sitake (center) addresses questions during BYU Football Media Day at the Broadcast Building on Thursday, June 17, 2021.

One of the greatest aspects of the BYU football media day tradition that has been going on for more than a decade now is the fact that many Cougar players and coaches have time to address just about any topic.

Of course, the liberty to ask just about anything can result in questions that are limited in their scope and thus don’t provide any insights that will be applicable to the product BYU will put on the field.

Here are three examples that are likely to come up during Wednesday’s 2022 Cougar football media day at the BYU Broadcasting Building in Provo:

1. Depth chart

It is inevitable that reporters will feel the need to talk about who will likely get playing time for the Cougars.

While there are some positions that seem to be relatively straightforward (quarterback comes to mind), BYU head coach Kalani Sitake has always emphasized competition and the team still has a month of camp in August where the depth chart can and probably will change dramatically.

2. Big 12 preparation

Courtesy BYU Photo

Offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick answers questions from host Dave McCann during BYU Football Media Day on Thursday, June 17, 2021. 

The Cougars continue to look to build the foundation for their return to conference play, including adding staff, looking at facilities and evaluating roles.

But as Sitake repeated multiple times during spring camp, the focus for the football players and coaches has to first be on what happens on the field in 2022. It’s never a good idea to get carried away looking too far ahead.

3. Newcomer impact

For years, recruiting hype has elevated expectations for players who arrive on campus. Now that the transfer portal has been added to the mix, the talk about how someone might perform in a BYU uniform comes up even more.

Of course, the reality is that the athletes have to prove themselves on many levels when they get to Provo, including physically, academically, emotionally, schematically, chemically (with regards to team chemistry) and adaptability.

That means any speculation at media day on what a recruit or a transfer will do for the team still has a lot of steps that need to take place before it becomes a reality on the field.

Courtesy BYU Photo

BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki (right) and assistant head football coach Ed Lamb talk during the "State of the Program" show at Cougar football Media Day at the BYU Broadcasting Building in Provo on Thursday, June 17, 2021.

The reality is that discussing specifics or something that will happen in a year simply doesn’t mean a whole lot.

But there are other inquiries that will provide a better idea about what to expect from the Cougar football team this fall.

Here are five questions that should be asked that could provide valuable perspective:

1. How will BYU balance expectations of greatness and staying focused?

The Cougars have won 21 games and lost just four in the last two seasons, so it is clear BYU is getting used to consistently coming out on top. In addition, the Cougars have a huge majority of their players returning so experience shouldn’t be a problem.

But at times teams that have talent and the perception of being really good end up failing to succeed at the level they should.

Courtesy BYU Photo

BYU football players Chaz Ah You (right) and Max Tooley talk to reporters at Cougar football Media Day at the BYU Broadcasting Building in Provo on Thursday, June 17, 2021.

BYU has to find the right balance of confidence and determination to not be one of those teams, which is something that players and coaches should be examining on some level every day. This is a chance for them to address how they are doing that.

2. Do the Cougars have the players in position now to be more aggressive defensively?

It’s not logical to say that BYU was terrible in the most important defensive stat: points allowed. The Cougars surrendered just 24.69 points per game (51st in the nation) and that was a big reason why BYU had a 10-win season.

But the aggressive-play numbers were dismal: 20 sacks and 59 tackles for a loss during the year, 109th in the nation in both categories.

Part of that can be attributed to the rash of injuries, particularly at linebacker, that forced BYU to use a lot of guys. But that’s not going to be a good reason in 2022, considering how many players who have proven they can be big-time performers the Cougars have back on that side of the ball.

Now the question becomes how much more BYU is willing to gamble on that experience to make game-changing plays on defense.

3. What philosophically has to change to get off the field more consistently on third and fourth downs?

Courtesy BYU Photo

BYU assistant head coach Ed Lamb talks to reporters at Cougar football Media Day at the BYU Broadcasting Building in Provo on Thursday, June 17, 2021.

In 2021, BYU allowed its opponents to convert on 43% of their third down attempts (77 of 179) and a whopping 65% on fourth down (17 of 26).

If you take a closer look at the three Cougar losses, failure to get off the field made a big difference as Boise State was 7-of-16 on third down (no fourth down attempts), Baylor was 7-of-15 on third down and 2-of-4 on fourth down, and UAB was 9-of-14 on third down and 2-of-2 on fourth down.

That meant that on 45 opportunities to end a drive in those games, that trio of BYU opponents got the necessary yardage 27 times (60%). That isn’t a winning recipe.

The Cougars will face teams that will attempt to follow the same formula, so this is an area that needs to be examined carefully during the offseason to get those numbers more in favor of BYU.

4. How will BYU address the loss of emotional leadership from the departed players?

It’s easy to evaluate the statistical hit losing Tyler Allgeier, Neil Pau’u, Samson Nacua, James Empey, Uriah Leiataua and Baylor Romney will have on the team: 1,677 total rushing yards, 805 total passing yards, 1,067 receiving yards, 39 touchdowns, 27 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 4 tackles for a loss.

While those aren’t insignificant numbers, the much greater impact of their departure will be on the psyche of the team. All were leaders who brought toughness, energy, enthusiasm and confidence to the team.

A great team has to have others make sure the void left by not having those voices is filled by others. BYU has plenty of players who can do it, but it is important that all recognize how vital it is to make sure it happens.

5. What will it take to get the Cougars to take the next step?

The successes of the last couple of years are certain to bring some nostalgia to long-time BYU football fans who recall the glory days of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s when they expected the Cougars to win 10 games annually.

But all BYU supporters can’t help but long for a return to 1984 when everything fell into place for something unique and special for their team — and there is reason to believe this year has that potential.

There are opportunities to make statements, since it will be possible that four of the first seven games will be against ranked opponents (vs. Baylor, at Oregon, vs. Notre Dame in Las Vegas and vs. Arkansas). There are other teams who could be up there as well, like Utah State, Liberty, Boise State or maybe even Stanford (probably a stretch, but who knows?).

Combine that schedule with a team of veterans who have some preseason national buzz and you have the ingredients.

So this is a good time to ask Sitake and the players what they think needs to happen to make that a reality and really make a statement in their final year as an independent.


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